A Publication of WTVP

What comes to mind when you consider technology? Some of us probably think of the early Internet days, the growth in mobile computing, the advent of the mp3 player or the shrinking size and increasing power of the cell phone. Maybe you go back even further to the fax machine, the invention of the wheel, the light bulb or even the automobile. No one would argue that the process of bringing science to life through inventions, technological processes and advanced operating methods has made us all more efficient.

But in manufacturing, where efficiency is so critical, smaller companies in particular are challenged to integrate new technologies so that they may produce goods faster, smarter and more cost-effectively. In most cases, technology developers are primarily focused on large manufacturers as the target for transfer because of bigger economic benefits. Larger firms can implement and test new technologies more easily without disrupting their operations and productive capacity. Obstacles to small manufacturers’ adoption of new advanced technologies include lack of information, lack of expertise, lack of funds and risk-averse attitudes. Also, small manufacturers often do not have the time or internal expertise required to make educated technology purchasing decisions.

To remain globally competitive, manufacturers will need to do more than just be cost-competitive and provide high-quality products—they will have to be innovative, continuously developing new ideas and refining existing ones to stay ahead of the competition. They will also have to embrace change and take on significant risks as they introduce new products and reposition their market focus. One of IMEC’s roles is to facilitate the process by which a company takes stock in what they do well, overcomes its limitations and discovers new opportunities for growth. We help entrepreneurial manufacturers build upon their competencies; identify new products, services and markets that fit those competencies; and implement effective strategies to grow and diversify.

In recent years, technologies that were initially seeded in Illinois have been developed into job-creating business enterprises in other states whose infrastructure, talent and capacity were deemed by entrepreneurs to be superior to those in Illinois. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, through its Entrepreneurship Centers, links clients that “own” new technologies with existing Illinois manufacturers that have the capacity to develop, commercialize and manufacture the products in Illinois. By linking existing manufacturers with new technology entrepreneurs, not only can we retain the benefits of these new technologies, but we can accelerate the commercialization.

Why is all of this important?
According to the results of U.S. Census research conducted in the United States in the last 30 years, manufacturing output and employment for small manufacturers has been growing in relation to larger manufacturers. However, productivity in small manufacturers has declined. The reason often cited is that smaller manufacturers have a lower rate of adoption of both new technologies and improved manufacturing practices. Currently, more than 50 percent of U.S. manufacturing output comes from small manufacturers.

In the coming years, you will see an increased emphasis on technology transfer and commercialization within the manufacturing sector. It is important that our small and mid-sized manufacturers be given the opportunity to cost-effectively integrate technologies that will give them a competitive edge. IBI